The End Of All Crossroads

Where the TAXI makes a stop, to ponder upon which road mayhap be true

Category: Africa

Clashes over Internet rules to mark Dubai meeting

“More than 900 proposed regulatory changes have been proposed, but details have not been made public. Broad consensus is needed to adopt any items — the first major review of the U.N.’s telecommunications protocols since 1988, well before the Internet age.”

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By BRIAN MURPHY
— Dec. 3 8:50 AM EST

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The U.N.’s top telecommunications overseer sought Monday to quell worries about greater Internet controls emerging from global talks in Dubai, but any attempts for major Web regulations will likely face stiff opposition from groups led by a high-powered U.S. delegation.

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The 11-day conference, seeking to update codes last reviewed when the Web was virtually unknown, highlights the fundamental shift from tightly managed telecommunications networks to the borderless sweep of the Internet.

Some at the Dubai conference, including a 123-member U.S. delegation with envoys from tech giants such as Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp., worry that any new U.N. oversight could be used by nations such as China and Russia to justify further tightening of Web blocks and monitoring.

“Love the free and open Internet? Tell the world’s governments to keep it that way,” said a message on the main search page of Google.com with a link for comments directed to the Dubai conference, which opened Monday.

The agenda for the gathering of more than 1,900 participants from 193 nations covers possible new rules for a broad range of services such as the Internet, mobile roaming fees and satellite and fixed-line communications. Questions include how much sway the U.N. can exert over efforts such as battling cyber-crimes and expanding the Internet into developing nations.

The secretary-general of the U.N. International Telecommunications Union, Hamadoun Toure, said that accusations that the meeting could limit Web freedoms are “completely untrue” and predicted only “light-touch” regulations.

“Many countries will come to reaffirm their desire to see freedom of expression embedded in this conference,” he told reporters.

But the head of the American contingent, Ambassador Terry Kramer, said the U.S. would propose taking all Internet-related discussions off the table and concentrating on already regulated services such as phone networks.

“What we don’t want to do is bring in all the private networks, the Internet networks, the government networks, etc.,” he told The Associated Press. “That opens the door to censorship.”

The outcome of the Dubai gathering is far from certain.

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More than 900 proposed regulatory changes have been proposed, but details have not been made public. Broad consensus is needed to adopt any items — the first major review of the U.N.’s telecommunications protocols since 1988, well before the Internet age.

The gathering is also powerless to force nations to change their Internet policies, such as China’s notorious “Great Firewall” and widespread blackouts of political opposition sites in places including Iran and the Gulf Arab states. Last week, Syria’s Internet and telephone services disappeared for two days during some of the worst fighting in months to hit the capital, Damascus.

Kramer told reporters last week in Washington that all efforts should be made to avoid a “Balkanization” of the Internet in which each country would impose its own rules and standards that could disrupt the flow of commerce and information.

“That opens the door … to content censorship,” he said.

The International Trade Union Confederation, representing labor groups in more than 150 countries, claimed a bloc that includes China, Russia and several Middle East nations seeks to “pave the way for future restrictions on both Internet content or its users.”

“It is clear that some governments have an interest in changing the rules and regulations of the Internet,” the confederation said in statement Monday.

Another battle that will likely take place in Dubai is over European-backed suggestions to change the pay structure of the Web to force content providers — such as Google, Facebook Inc. and others — to kick in an extra fee to reach users across borders.

“Potentially, the content developers — they could be Googles, they could be universities — would end up being charged potentially to have traffic sent abroad,” said Kramer in Dubai. “Either way, you slow down Internet traffic and you actually exacerbate the digital divide, the income divide, because you have a lot of people who are accessing things for free.”

Advocates of the changes say the money raised could pay to expand broadband infrastructures in developing countries.

Toure said he hoped for a “landmark” accord on trying to bring broadband Internet to developing countries. “The Internet remains out of reach for two-thirds of world’s people,” said Toure, who is from Mali.

The U.N. telecommunications agency dates back to 1865, when the telegraph revolutionized the speed of information. Over the decades, it has expanded to include telephone, satellite and other advances in communications.

SOURCE:

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Goodbye Petrodollar, Hello Agri-Dollar?

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 11/24/2012 09:50 -0500

When it comes to firmly established, currency-for-commodity, self reinforcing systems in the past century of human history, nothing comes close to the petrodollar: it is safe to say that few things have shaped the face of the modern world and defined the reserve currency as much as the $2.3 trillion/year energy exports denominated exclusively in US dollars (although recent confirmations of previously inconceivable exclusions such as Turkey’s oil-for-gold trade with Iran are increasingly putting the petrodollar status quo under the microscope). But that is the past, and with rapid changes in modern technology and extraction efficiency, leading to such offshoots are renewable and shale, the days of the petrodollar “as defined” may be over. So what new trade regime may be the dominant one for the next several decades? According to some, for now mostly overheard whispering in the hallways, the primary commodity imbalance that will shape the face of global trade in the coming years is not that of energy, but that of food, driven by constantly rising food prices due to a fragmented supply-side unable to catch up with increasing demand, one in which China will play a dominant role but not due to its commodity extraction and/or processing supremacy, but the contrary: due to its soaring deficit for agricultural products, and in which such legacy trade deficit culprits as the US will suddenly enjoy a huge advantage in both trade and geopolitical terms. Coming soon: the agri-dollar.

But first, some perspectives from Karim Bitar on CEO of Genus, on what is sure to be the biggest marginal player of the agri-dollar revolution, China, whose attempt to redefine itself as a consumption-driven superpower will fail epically and very violently, unless it is able to find a way to feed its massive, rising middle class in a cheap and efficient manner. But before that even, take note of the following chart which takes all you know about global trade surplus and deficit when narrowed down to what may soon be that all important agricultural (hence food) category, and flips it around on its head.

Karim Bitar on China:

Structurally, China is at a huge disadvantage as it accounts for 20% of the world’s population, but only 7% of arable land. Compare that with Brazil which has the reverse of those ratios. What that does for a country like China is to incentivise the adoption of technification. Let’s look at their porcine market, which represents 50% of global production and consumption. In China, to slaughter roughly 600 mn pigs per year, which is about six times the demand in the US, they have a breeding herd of about 50 mn animals. In the US, the comparable number is only about 6 mn so there is a huge productivity lag.

Owing to its structural disadvantages, China is much more focused on increasing efficiency. For that, it needs to accelerate technification. So, we’re seeing a whole series of government incentives at a national level, a provincial level and a local level, focusing on the need to move toward integrated pork production because that’s a key way to optimise total economics, both in terms of pig production, slaughtering, processing and also actually taking the pork out into the marketplace.

The Chinese government is important as a customer to us because of its clarity of vision on food security. It has seen the Arab Spring, and it is cognisant of the strong socio-political implications of higher food prices. Pork prices could account for about 25% of the CPI, so it knows it can be a major issue. It’s because of all these pressures, that China is more focused on responding to the food challenge. It’s a sort of a burning platform there.

…Take milk production in China and India. China is basically trying to leapfrog and avoid small-scale farming by adopting a US model. In the US, you tend to have very large herds. Today about 30% of US milk production is from herds of 2,000 plus, and we expect that to reach 60% within the next five years. Today in China, there are already several hundred dairy herds of over 1,000. However in India, there’ll be less than 50. The average dairy herd size is closer to five, so it’s very fragmented. So the reality is that a place like China, because of government policies, subsidies and a much more demanding focused approach to becoming self-sufficient, has a much greater ability to respond to a supply challenge rapidly.

The problem for China, and to a lesser extent India, however one defines it, is that it will need increasingly more food, processed with ever greater efficiency for the current conservative regime to be able to preserve the status quo, all else equal. And for a suddenly very food trade deficit-vulnerable China, it means that the biggest winners may be Brazil, the US and Canada. Oh and Africa. The only question is how China will adapt in a new world in which it finds itself in an odd position: a competitive trade disadvantage, especially its primary nemesis: the USA.

So for those curious how a world may look like under the Agri-dollar, read on for some timely views from GS’ Hugo Scott-Gall.

Meaty problems, simmering solutions

What potential impacts could a further re-pricing of food have on the world? Why might food re-price? Because demand is set to rise faster than supply can respond. The forces pushing demand higher are well known, population growth, urbanisation and changing middle class size and tastes. In terms of economic evolution, the food price surge comes after the energy price surge, as industrialisation segues into consumption growth (high-income countries consume about 30% more calories than low income nations, but the difference in value is about eight times). Here, we are keenly interested in how the supply side can respond, both in terms of where and how solutions are found, and who is supplying them. We are drawn towards an analogy with the energy industry here: the energy industry has invested heavily in efficiency, and through innovation, clusters of excellence, and access to capital has created solutions, the most obvious of which are renewable energy and shale. The key question for us is, can and will something similar happen in food?

It’s hard to argue that the ingredients that sparked energy’s supply-side response are all present in the food supply chain. In food, there’s huge fragmentation, a lack of coordination, shortages of capital in support industries (infrastructure) and only pockets of isolated innovation. We suspect that the supply-side response may well remain uncoordinated and slower than in other industries. But things are changing. Those who disagree with Thomas Malthus will always back human ingenuity. As well as looking at where the innovators in the supply chain are (from page 10), and where there are sustainably high returns through IP (e.g., seeds, enzymes etc.), we need to think about the macro and micro economic impacts of higher food prices, and soberingly, the geo-political ones.

Slimming down

Could the demand destruction that higher energy prices have precipitated occur in food? There are some important differences between the two that make resolving food imbalances tougher. Food consumption is very fragmented and there is less scope for substitution.

Changing eating habits is much harder than changing the fuel burnt for power. And, ultimately, food spend is less discretionary that energy, i.e., the scope for efficient consumption is more limited and consumers will not (and cannot) voluntarily delay consumption, let alone structurally reduce it. This means that higher food prices, especially in economies where food is a greater portion of household spending, will lead to either lower consumption of discretionary items or a reduced ability to service debt (with consequent effects on asset prices). When oil prices spiked in the late 1970s, US consumers spent c.9% of their income on energy vs. an average of 7% over the previous decade. And yet, the total savings rate rose by c.2% as they overcompensated on spending cuts on other items. 2007-09 saw a similar phenomenon too. Even the most cursory browse through history shows that high food costs can act as a political tinderbox (so too high youth unemployment), and we believe there is a degree of overconfidence with regard to the economic impact of food prices in the West: food costs relative to incomes may look manageable, but when there is no buffer (i.e., a minimal savings rate) then there are problems. Food spend as a percentage of total household consumption expenditure is a relatively benign 14% in the US, versus c.20% for most major European nations and Japan. This rises to c.40% for China and 45% for India. Of course, as wages rise, the proportion of food within total consumption expenditure falls, but that is only after consumption hits a ceiling. Currently, India and China consume about 2,300 and 2,900 calories per capita per day, compared to a DM average of about 3,400. If the two countries eat like the West, then food production must rise by 12%. And if the rest of the world catches up to these levels then that number is north of 50%.

The scramble for Africa’s eggs

In terms of ownership of resources, food, like energy, can be broken into haves and have-nots. While there are countries that have been successful without resources, it is quite clear that inheriting advantages (in this case good soil, climate and water) makes life easier. But that, of course, is only half the battle; what is also required is organisation, capital, education and collaboration to make it happen. Take Africa. It has 60% of the world’s uncultivated land, enviable demographics and lots of water (though not evenly distributed). Basic infrastructure, consolidation of agricultural land and minimal use of fertilisers and crop protection could do wonders for agricultural output in the region. But that’s easier said than done. Several African economies also need better access to information, education, property rights and access to markets and capital. Put another way, it needs better institutions. If Africa does deliver over the coming decades, rising food prices will alter the economics of investing in the region. The next scramble for Africa should be about food (while it is about hard commodities now and in the late 19th century it was about empire size). Fertiliser consumption has a diminishing incremental impact on yields, but Africa (along with several developing economies elsewhere) is far from touching that ceiling. Currently, Africa accounts for just 3% of global agricultural trade, with South Africa and Côte d’Ivoire together accounting for a third of the entire continent’s exports. But if the world wants to feed itself then it needs Africa to emerge as an agricultural powerhouse.

Higher up the production curve is China, which has been industrialising its agriculture as it seeks to move towards self sufficiency. Power consumed by agricultural machinery has almost doubled over the last decade, while the number of tractors per household has tripled, driving per hectare output up by an average of more than 20% over the same period.

Even so, in just the last 10 years China has gone from surplus to deficit in several meat, vegetable and cereal categories. So a lot more needs to be done, and a shortage of water could also prove to be an impediment, especially in some of its remote areas.

The power of the pampas

With significant surpluses in soybeans, maize, meat and oilseeds, Brazil and Argentina have led the Latin American continent in terms of food trade. Current surpluses are 6x and 3x 2000 levels, versus only a 30% increase in the previous decade, and are rising. A key impediment to boosting exports is infrastructure. Food has to travel a long way just to reach the port, and then further still to reach other markets. Forty days is possibly acceptable for iron ore to reach China on a ship from Brazil, but that would prevent several perishable food items from being exported. And hence, solution providers in terms of durability, packaging, refrigeration and processing will be in demand. Also, while you could attribute a lot of the agricultural success of LatAm economies to good conditions, they have also benefitted from the adoption of agricultural innovation. For instance, more than a third of crops planted in the region are as seeds that are genetically modified, versus more than 45% in the US and about 12% in Asia. Genetically modified crops are not new. They provide solutions to some of the most frequent constraints on agricultural yields (resistance to environmental challenges including drought and more efficient absorption of soil nutrients, fertilisers and water) or add value by enhancing nutrient composition or the shelf life of the crop. And while the adoption of GM crops and seeds is far from wholehearted, particularly in Europe, it’s most certainly a key part of the solution in economies that are set to face a more severe food shortage.

The last mango in Paris?

Europe’s deficit/surplus makes for interesting reading. Seventeen of the 27 EU countries face a food trade deficit, and yet, the EU overall recorded a surplus (barely) in 2010 for only the second time in the last 50 years (see chart). Broken down further, the UK is the largest food importer, followed by Germany and Italy, while the Netherlands and France lead exports thanks to their very large processing industries. If Europe’s future is one of relative economic decline, then reduced purchasing power when bidding for scarce food resources is an unappetising prospect. Therefore, it needs all
the innovative solutions it can muster, or import substitution will have to increase. It’s important to note that being in overall surplus or deficit can mask variety at the category level, i.e., Europe is a net importer of beef, fruit & vegetables, and corn, while its exports are helped by alcohol and wine specifically. Japan, in particular, is very challenged. It is the only country in the preceding table to show a deficit in every single food category.

We conclude our trip around the world in North America. Large-scale production, access to markets, a home to innovation
and favourable regulation has meant that the US (and Canada) continues to dominate some of the key agricultural resources such as soybeans, corn, fodder, wheat and oilseeds. Put this self sufficiency together with the medium-term potential for energy self sufficiency and relatively good demographics (better than China), and a rosier prognosis for the US, versus the rest of the Western world and parts of Asia, begins to fall into place.

Agri-dollars on the rise

Before we conclude, we need to devote a few lines to the geo-political and macro economic consequences of higher food prices. It’s likely that countries will act increasingly strategically to secure food supply, and that protections (e.g., high export tariffs) may well rise. It is also likely that there are special bi-lateral deals to access stable and secure food supply.

This could obviously damage the integrity of the WTO-sponsored system. Another consequence might be the emergence of agri-dollars, in the same way that petro-dollars emerged in the 1970s. This may seem far fetched (the value of the world’s energy exports is US$2.3 tn compared to US$1.08 tn for agriculture) but it’s important to think through the consequences. The big exporters, especially those with the scope to grow their output, may well have sustainable surpluses that can be reinvested into their economies (or extracted by a narrow part of society). Similarly, the consequence of being a net importer will be an effective tax on consumption: disposable income in the US would jump if oil was US$25/bbl.

As we have said, we would expect the big gainers of a meaningful rise in food prices in real terms to be Brazil, the US and Canada, while Japan, South Korea and the UK would face challenges. The top chart is important: look how China’s surplus has turned to deficit. What will happen if the Chinese middle class swells as it is expected to? And that’s the rub; what we have been used to in terms of food’s importance is set to change. How food moves around the world is likely to change, and the flow of currency around the world will also likely be impacted.

 

SOURCE:
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2012-11-24/goodbye-petrodollar-hello-agri-dollar

That Other War

This article is long and dense.
Here, have some listening.

 

 

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The bloody conflict you didn’t read about this week is in Congo, and it threatens to redraw the map of Africa.
BY ANJAN SUNDARAM | NOVEMBER 20, 2012

 

KIGALI, Rwanda — One of Congo’s biggest eastern cities fell to a powerful rebel force on Tuesday, Nov. 20, in a war that may redefine the region but has produced little political action by the United Nations, the United States, and international powers that heavily support neighboring governments — notably Rwanda, a Western darling and aid recipient — that are backing the violence, according to U.N. experts. The fighting has displaced nearly 1 million people since the summer, and the battle for the city of Goma marks the latest episode of a long struggle by Rwandan-backed rebels to take control of a piece of the Democratic Republic of the Congo — a struggle the rebels are now decisively winning. The fighting has also highlighted the ineptitude of the United Nations mission, one of the world’s largest and most expensive, charged with keeping Congo’s peace.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Saturday “to request that he use his influence on the M23 [rebels] to help calm the situation and restrain M23 from continuing their attack,” as the U.N.’s peacekeeping chief put it. And French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius affirmed that the rebellion in Congo was supported by Rwanda, expressing “grave concern.” But the violence has only escalated since. The U.N. Security Council called an emergency session over the weekend, but its condemnation of the violence, demanding that the rebels stop advancing on Goma and insisting that outside powers stop funding the M23 rebels, have all simply been ignored. The Security Council announced it would sanction M23 but did not even mention Rwanda, the main power behind the rebellion. And even as the fighting has intensified, the U.N. mission in Congo has been making public pronouncements about new access to drinking water for people in eastern Congo — producing a surreal image of the war.

The well-equipped and professional M23 fighters, perhaps better armed and organized than any rebel unit in Congo in the past decade, put on a remarkable show of force over the weekend to move within a few kilometers of the provincial capital, Goma. The rebels not only withstood heavy shelling by U.N. helicopter gunships, but simultaneously gained ground and forced back the Congolese national army on two other fronts, according to reports. The Congolese army and U.N. peacekeeping forces subsequently stayed out of the rebels’ way, allowing M23 to capture large parts of Goma with virtually no resistance. In the end, some 3,000 Congolese soldiers, backed by hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers with air power, were unable to contain M23 forces numbering in the few hundreds.

This unprecedented military capability of the M23 rebels in a country of ragtag militias has led to many credible claims — backed by findings from U.N. experts — that Rwanda is providing weapons, soldiers, and military guidance to the rebels, with orders coming directly from Rwanda’s defense minister, Gen. James Kabarebe. Human Rights Watch says it has extensively documented Rwandan troops crossing into Congo to support the M23 rebels. Uganda, too, is accused of providing M23 with a political base, though on a request from the Congolese government it recently closed a key border-crossing point that had been helping to finance the rebels. Both Rwanda and Uganda are relatively ordered countries — in stark contrast to Congo — with well-entrenched authoritarian governments that receive significant military and financial aid from the United States and the West.

Such powerful backing means the rebels can deliver on their far-reaching threats. As Goma fell, M23 spokesman Lt. Col. Vianney Kazarama told me that rebels intended to “capture a good part of eastern Congo,” including its other major city in the east, Bukavu. The rebels have demanded that Congo’s government negotiate with them — without specifying precisely what they want. But Congo has said it will only speak with Rwanda, “the real aggressor,” and not to a “fictitious” group that is serving as a cover. For now, the M23 rebels are regrouping in Goma. And there may well be a calm interlude in the war, as parties attempt to negotiate. But given the rebels’ history, at the back of their minds is likely an old dream — of a place of their own in eastern Congo — that has become distinctly more real with Goma’s capture.

The situation closely resembles another attack on Goma, four years ago, by Laurent Nkunda, a rebel also backed by Rwanda who led M23’s predecessor group and who told me that he hoped to create a new country in eastern Congo called the “Republic of Volcanoes.” Some 200,000 people had been displaced in that battle as fighting came right up to the city. In the end, Nkunda chose not to take Goma, and during the negotiations that followed his forces agreed to disband and join Congo’s national army. This spring, however, some of those same fighters declared that the Congolese government had reneged on its promises and formed the M23 rebellion.

M23’s and Nkunda’s forces have been accused of grave human rights abuses, including mass rape (in one instance, of some 16,000 women in one weekend in Bukavu), massacres, and the recruitment of child soldiers. Bosco Ntaganda, an M23 leader, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for recruiting child soldiers. Congo issued an international arrest warrant in 2005 for Nkunda, citing war crimes, but he remains in secret detention in Rwanda, which has refused to hand him over to Congo.

Rwanda’s support for the M23 rebellion stems from a mix of historical sympathies and financial interests. The M23 is composed mainly of Tutsi fighters who represent a historically marginalized ethnic group in eastern Congo. Several leaders of M23 and its predecessor rebel group had fought alongside Rwanda’s now-president, Kagame — who, like many of his senior aides, is also Tutsi.

Then there is also eastern Congo’s immense mineral wealth, which Rwanda has illegally profited from for years since its invasion of Congo in 1996. Rwanda has made hundreds of millions of dollars — probably much more — by supporting rebel groups who control lucrative mines in Congo and by smuggling the minerals into Rwanda for export to world markets.

There is also history. Many Rwandans, including officials in government, believe that eastern Congo is a rightful part of Rwanda, taken away when European colonial powers carved up the continent in 1885 and made those rich, fertile lands a part of Congo. They see the M23 as righting this historical injustice, despite international laws to the contrary.

Rwanda’s foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, highlighted such sympathies this summer when she began a private diplomatic meeting, on the topic of the M23 rebellion, with a map of ancient Rwanda that encompassed much of eastern Congo, according to several diplomats who attended the event. Her point was that the region’s history is complex, but it was only a logical step from there to assert that Rwanda exercised some right over Congolese land. Kagame, for his part, has remained oddly silent since the new surge of violence on his country’s border, though he has previously refuted all allegations that his country supports the rebels. And Kagame has so far, despite international appeals, refused to condemn the M23 rebellion.

The rebels, however, insist that their movement is purely Congolese. Kazarama, the M23 spokesman, told me that the M23 is combating “years of poor governance, a lack of public services, and constant insecurity.” When I asked where the M23 had obtained its sophisticated military equipment — the U.N. has noted that it possesses 120 mm mortars and even night-vision goggles — Kazarama said he had purchased them on the “black market in Dubai” and insisted that the weapons “had not come from Rwanda.”

Rwanda, though it receives vast amounts of aid from Western countries, has remained a decisive force in Congo’s destabilization. The vast majority of Congo’s territory, despite being mineral-rich and open to pillage by other neighbors, is relatively peaceful. But Congo’s border with Rwanda, its tiny neighbor, remains a flash point for new conflict.

In spite of the facts on the ground, Rwanda has a history of denial regarding its involvement in Congo. Throughout its 1990s invasion of Congo, Rwanda denied accusations of its presence on Congolese soil, even as photographs emerged of Kabarebe, Rwanda’s current defense minister and operational commander of that Congo invasion, in Kinshasa, standing beside Congo’s then-president, Laurent Kabila, whom Rwanda had helped put in power. For years, Rwanda also denied backing Nkunda’s rebel forces, only to rein him in and secretly detain him in Rwanda, where he remains today. And now, President Kagame continues — even angrily — to deny his government’s assistance to M23.

On Tuesday, as M23 rebels took control of Congo’s border with Rwanda — an event that should have caused concern — news agencies reported that Rwandan soldiers and policemen “did not seem particularly nervous and no significant reinforcements were visible.”

The international community has historically chosen to take Rwanda’s side in its vehement denials of interference in Congo, continuing to send almost $1 billion each year to Rwanda’s government, which depends for almost half its budget on foreign aid.

In July, however, several Western governments suspended foreign aid payments to Rwanda after reports emerged that it was arming the rebellion in Congo. The United States led the way, suspending a symbolic $200,000 in military assistance (a tiny percentage of its real support to Rwanda). But several of Rwanda’s biggest financiers — including the European Union, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank, many of which channel money directly to the Rwandan treasury — have continued to gift and loan the government money and have refused to publicly condemn Rwanda’s support to the rebels, despite the mounting evidence.

In September, Britain, which had previously suspended its payments, reinstated 16 million pounds in aid to the Rwandan government. Britain’s former international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, who enjoys a close relationship with Kagame and whose charity work in Rwanda has been praised by the president, was criticized as a “rogue minister” by British members of Parliament for signing off on that aid on his very last afternoon in office. Other countries, including the United States, have hinted that they will merely not make any “new” aid commitments to Rwanda, but that existing promises — which amount to several hundred million dollars — will continue to be delivered.

Simply put, the international community seems reluctant to apply pressure on Rwanda to help end the enormous humanitarian crisis unfolding in Congo. Western countries claim that putting pressure on Kigali could bring new instability to the region — despite the inherent absurdity in this argument, given Rwanda’s destabilizing influence in Congo both now and historically.

Aid donors also fear losing what they consider a model country for development in Africa — though such notions of development success are strictly economic. While Rwanda has reported striking economic growth since its 1994 genocide, its government is severely repressive and shows scant respect for fundamental human rights.

The latest attack on Goma also highlights the inadequacy of the 17,000-strong U.N. force, which is staffed mostly with soldiers from poor countries — in eastern Congo, mainly soldiers from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh — who are sent to such missions as a reward for good service at home. The U.N. per diems represent, for many soldiers, four times their regular army salaries. Peacekeepers often told me they were using their Congo stint to save up for a house or for their children’s education — they were “not in Congo to die.”

The U.N. has said that once the Congolese army had fled Goma, it did not stop the M23 rebels for fear of causing civilian casualties. French Foreign Minister Fabius has meanwhile called for a review of the United Nations mission in Congo, saying it was “absurd” that the rebels had been able to parade past the idle peacekeepers. Meanwhile, the Congolese and Rwandan armies have reportedly begun to bomb each other, in the first open hostilities between the countries in years.

The resumption of fighting this spring ended a few years of gradual progress in Congo’s east, in which relative stability had been established in the areas around Goma for the first time since 1996. The famous Virunga National Park had seen increasing numbers of foreign tourists keen on visiting the endangered mountain gorilla in its natural habitat. And Goma was enjoying a flurry of new construction, largely of multistory hotels.

What seems clear now is that the M23 rebels have made a decisive push to take over a part of eastern Congo. The Rwandan state also seems to be moving with conviction — not backing down from its support for the rebellion despite repeated international appeals. And the government has been emboldened by its recent successful bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council, despite credible evidence even then that it was supporting M23. And now there is talk in the region of the emergence of a new quasi-country — a South Sudan-style annexation of mineral-rich territory in Congo.

A peaceful end to this conflict is now difficult to imagine, and it is Congo’s civilians who will suffer, as they always have, the most. It is highly unlikely that the M23 rebels can be reintegrated into the Congolese national army once again — trust has been broken by this conflict. But if the M23 are defeated, sentiments against the Rwandan-speaking minorities in Congo will become even more vitriolic and may well lead to more violence. The rebels, and Rwanda, are no doubt aware of their great gamble.

SOURCE: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/11/20/that_other_war